Dramas and novels

Dramas and novels

Aunt Eliza's Garret is the title of an 1854 melodrama by G. M. Viner, on how drinking, bad business skills and an even worse choice of friends could reduce a family to poverty, forcing its 'respectable' female members to become 'needlewomen' in order to make a semblance of a living.

Aunt Jane of Kentucky is a collection of nine short stories written by Eliza Calvert Hall. It was first published in Boston, USA, in 1907. Hall was the pen name of the American writer and suffragist, Eliza ‘Lida’ Calvert Obenchain (1856-1935). Throughout the book, Aunt Jane, an old country woman, uses patchwork and quilting metaphors to explore power relationships between women and men.

Betty Jacobson Hechtman (1947) has written a series of detectives that feature Molly Pink, who organises various events in a California bookshop, including those of the Tarzana Hookers. Titles include Hooked on Murder (2008); Dead Men Don't Crochet (2008); Seams Like Murder (2016; "delicious recipe & crochet pattern included").

Gammer Gurton's Needle is the title of an anonymous rustic and poetic drama that was written, allegedly, in 1533, and performed at Christ's College, Cambridge, in 1566 or 1567. It is a comedy in which a lost needle plays the major part. Its full title is A Ryght Pithy, Pleasaunt and Merie Comedie: Intytuled Gammer Gurtons Nedl. It was accredited in the past to Bishop John Still, but this association has since been refuted.

The Needlecraft Mystery series includes a list of books written by Monica Ferris. They feature Betsy Devonshire, who runs a needlecraft shop ('Crewel World') in Excelsior, Minnesota, USA. Titles include 'Crewel World' (1999: "where murder in a small town keeps one smart lady on pins and needles"; "free needlepoint pattern included"); 'Framed in Lace' (1999); 'A Murderous Yarn' (2002); 'Hanging by a Thread' (2003), etc. 

'Embroidery' is the title of a short story by the American author, Ray Bradbury (1920-2012), in which three women are sitting on a verandah,working their embroidery. The tension is rising when the time is moving on towards five o'clock in the afternoon.

The Coffin Quilt is a children’s book by Ann Rinaldi (1934), which was first published in 1991. The book is set in West Virginia/Kentucky (USA) and relates the story of the Hatfield-McCoy feud that actually took place in the late nineteenth century.

Emile Zola's novel Le Rêve ('The Dream') concerns an orphaned girl who is adopted by professional embroiderers and who becomes an expert in or nué embroidery. Le Rêve is the sixteenth novel in the so-called Rougon-Macquart series. The book was published in 1888 (Paris, Charpentier). The first English translation came out in 1893.

The Language of Threads is a novel published in 2000, and set in Hong Kong in the 1930's. It features Pei, who works initially as a saitong (washer and ironer of richly embroidered cheongsams), and then later she sets up a tailoring business. Here she starts to embroider the story of her life in silk.

The Last Runaway is a novel by the American author, Tracy Chevalier. Its main themes are quilting and head coverings (millinery). It was published in 2013 and is the author's seventh book. The novel is set in Ohio (USA) in the 1850's. The main character is Honor Bright, an English Quaker, who expresses herself through quilt making. She is involved in the Underground Railroad network, which helped slaves escaping to freedom.

"No one would believe that a tragedy to rival Romeo and Juliet could be hidden beneath the embroidery of a rare gown. If the writer is found out, she could be killed."

The Wrongs of Woman is a nineteenth century novel by the English writer, Charlotte Elizabeth Tonna (1790-1846; she wrote as Charlotte Elizabeth), about the life of lace embroiderers in England. Tonna wrote several books on the contemporary social and economic conditions of women.

'Washington Square' is a short novel by the American author Henry James (1843-1916), in which embroidery (also called 'fancy-work') plays a major role. Henry James published the novel in serial form in 1880, in Cornhill Magazine and Harper's New Monthly Magazine.